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Get ready for Bend Ale Trail Month 2017!

October 12th, 2017

While beer fans can tackle the legendary Bend Ale Trail any month of the year, there’s something extra special about doing it in November.

The brand new Bend Ale Trail Month trophy for 2017.

Make that several somethings. November is Bend Ale Trail Month, and 2017 marks the fourth time we’ve enjoyed this month-long celebration of Bend’s craft beer scene.

What’s all the fuss about? Read on to learn what’s awesome about planning your Bend beerventure in November 2017.

 

What’s this about a trophy?

You can hit the Bend Ale Trail all year long and earn prizes for gathering passport stamps at the breweries. December through October, you earn a Silipint pint glass for racking up 10 passport stamps, and an additional bottle opener for hitting all 16.

But in November, that all changes. Yeah, you still get the Silipint and the bottle opener for accomplishing the aforementioned feat, but guess what else you get?

A freakin’ trophy, that’s what!

To earn it, just bring your completed Bend Ale Trail passport to the Bend Visitor Center on the corner of Lava Ave. and Oregon Ave. between November 1 and November 30. Ten passport stamps get you the trophy AND the Silipint, or hit all 16 to earn the bottle opener, too.

Oh, and just because you have a trophy from a previous season doesn’t mean you don’t want this one. We’ve released a brand new (and in my opinion, even cooler) trophy this year, so it’s a great chance to add to your collection.

 

Can I score more free stuff?

While the trophies are clearly the top prize during Bend Ale Trail Month, there’s plenty more schwag to go around in November.

There’s plenty more schwag you can win for taking part in Bend Ale Trail Month.

The breweries are extra generous with prizes for Bend Ale Trail month, filling our conference room with all manner of goodies for us to give away. Hats, shirts, stickers, gift cards, Hydro Flasks, Silipints, and so much more can be yours with just a few taps of your phone screen.

Just snap a pic of your beerventure and share it on Instagram using the hashtag #bendaletrailmonth. We’ll randomly select winners to receive schwag throughout the month. Easy peasy!

 

What else can I win?

What, the trophy and the schwag aren’t enough for you?

Okay, how about a free Bend vacation!

Bring your stamped passport to the Bend Visitor Center and fill out a quick survey for a shot at winning a Bend vacation.

Everyone who brings a completed Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Bend Visitor Center and completes a quick survey (you’ve gotta do both!) will be entered to win a Bend beercation that includes two nights of lodging at Wall Street Suites, gift certificates for two awesome adventures with Wanderlust Tours, and a Brew it Yourself beermaking session at Immersion Brewing.

 

Er, what if I can’t drink all that beer?

If you want to spend your Bend Ale Trail adventure sipping your way through creamy porters and hoppy IPAs, rock on with your bad self.

You don’t have to drink a drop to complete the Bend Ale Trail, and many breweries (like Deschutes!) have tasty non-alcoholic options for those choosing to abstain.

But you’re not required to drink a single drop of beer. You do have to show up in person at each brewery to get your passport stamped, of course. But eating, drinking, or buying anything at all is optional. This is good news for teetotalers and designated drivers.

And while kids under 21 aren’t allowed to participate in the Bend Ale Trail program, they’ll find plenty of non-alcoholic selections along the trail. My personal fave: The root beer and ginger beer brewed up fresh at Deschutes Brewery.

If you’re a fan of adult beverages but just not beer, flip your Bend Ale Trail atlas to the Drinkable Diversions page. That’s where you’ll find a roundup of awesome distilleries, cideries, wineries, and kombucha brewers who’d be happy to hook you up with locally-made craft beverages of a different sort.

 

What else do I need to know?

If you do plan to swill beer during your Bend Ale Trail journey, it’s important to be smart about consumption. A few quick tips:

  • Tote your Hydroflask along to make sure you stay well-hydrated on your beerventure.

    Eat a hearty meal before you set out, and plan to nosh at a couple breweries along the way.

  • Take frequent water breaks. Tote your own Hydro Flask, or ask your server to set you up with a big glass of ice water.
  • Opt for smaller schooners instead of full pints of beer, or stick with samples.
  • Share a taster tray with a pack of friends so everyone can try a wide variety of beer without overindulging.
  • Don’t try to hit all the breweries in one weekend. Take it nice and slow!
  • Make a plan before you set out, including how many breweries you plan to hit and how you’ll get safely back to your Bend hotel or vacation rental.

 

And speaking of being responsible…

Don’t even think of drinking and driving. Seriously.

There are gazillion ways to travel between breweries without risking a DUI or someone’s life. Here are just a few of them:

 

Let the Bend Brew Bus be your designated driver.

I’m kinda worried about those beer calories…

Planning to visit Bend for Bend Ale Trail month, but fretting about your belt getting too tight? Never fear! Sign up for the Bend Ale Run on November 11 and fit in a little cardio with your fellow beer-lovers.

There’s a half-marathon and a 10k, plus an option to pedal the course for cyclists. You can even opt to walk it with a generous 5-hour time slot for completion.

Pic or it didn’t happen.

To learn more and to register, go here.

Is there an app for that?

Not in the mood to pack the Bend Ale Trail atlas with you everywhere you go? No problem!

Save trees and keep everything tucked neatly in your pocket when you check in at all your stops using the handy Bend Ale Trail app.

It’s free to download for iPhone and Android devices, and you can gather virtual stamps right there in the app (not to mention plotting your route, reading up on each brewery, and finding a place to stay). Download the app here.

6 super-cool restaurant bathrooms in Bend

October 5th, 2017

You pick a Bend restaurant for its awesome food. Or maybe you choose based on great service or a deliciously-unique cocktail.

Whatever factors into your selection of a Bend restaurant, bathrooms probably don’t play a role. But maybe they should.

The super-chic ladies room at 10below.

Here are six Bend eateries whose awesomely-original privies will have you taking extra potty breaks.

 

10below Restaurant & Lounge

10below is the spot that first sparked my intrigue for uber-special restaurant bathrooms when the Oxford Hotel opened back in 2010.

The ladies room features brightly-colored doors, funky chandeliers, cool art on the walls, and a long, sloped sink that spans half the room and will tempt you to spend hours washing your hands.

I will confess I’ve had dinner dates where I’ve intentionally made two trips to the restroom just to spend more time in this surprisingly luxurious space.

Luckily, there’s more to enjoy at 10below than just the bathroom. Their happy hour is one of the best in town, with both early and late-night options to be had. Try the house-smoked pacific salmon spread or the flat iron roasted cauliflower and crispy brussels with hazelnut gremolata and tahini.

Mmmm…Draper Valley crispy chicken with Dungeness crab, braised spinach, asparagus, rice pilaf, and sauce hollandaise.

If it’s dinner you’re after, go for the Draper Valley crispy chicken with Dungeness crab, braised spinach, asparagus, rice pilaf, and sauce hollandaise. Pair it with something from their killer wine list, or opt for a selection from their awesome cocktail menu, like the Secret Garden with muddled cucumber and lime, Hendrick’s gin, grapefruit liqueur, and thyme simple syrup.

Bonus: An extra drink gives you one more excuse to visit the restroom. You’re welcome.

 

Immersion Brewing

Is this the coolest sink you’ve ever seen or what?

A relative newcomer to the Bend Ale Trail, beautifully-built Immersion Brewing is also one of the newest breweries in Bend. If you’re out there trekking Bend’s trail of beer, plan a potty stop here to scope out their amazing industrial-modern restrooms.

Seriously, the sink? Awesome. Everything about it from the water pressure gauges to the flat stone top (angled back oh-so-very-slightly to let water drain) is a work of art.

Tasty tasty Crème brûlée .

The beer here is pretty awesome as well, with their “Beer Box” taster tray offering you the best option to sample several of their yummy brews. If you’re ordering just one pint, pick “Get Along Little Hoppies,” a limited-time, seasonal fresh hop beer with proceeds going to the Herd U Needed a Home herding dog rescue organization in Bend.

And even though I’m not normally a dessert fanatic, their Crème brûlée seriously made me swoon.

Extra credit: Since Immersion Brewing is just a short walk from Crux Fermentation Project, you may as well meander that direction for another delicious pint and the chance to scope out their restrooms wallpapered entirely in pages from vintage brewing guides.

 

Anthony’s Home Port

TV in the men’s room at Anthony’s.

I love the ladies room layout at Anthony’s Home Port in the Old Mill District almost as much as I love their ahi nachos, which is saying a lot.

Each bathroom stall has its own private sink and mirror behind a locked door, which adds a nice level of privacy and luxury to your bathroom experience.

When I emailed a marketing colleague in the Old Mill District and told him about my love of the Anthony’s restrooms, he generously offered to snap a pic. What I didn’t anticipate (but probably should have) is that he’d give me a glimpse of the men’s room.

Don’t miss the ahi nachos at Anthony’s.

While the menfolk at Anthony’s may not get individual sinks in each stall and pretty-smelling soap, they do get televisions—yes, individual television sets!—above each urinal. How cool is that?

When you’re not hanging out in the bathroom watching TV or washing your hands at your own private sink, try the aforementioned ahi machos with one of their stellar wine flights.

If you don’t mind eating a bit early, their weekday Sunset Dinner Specials offered until 6 p.m. are one of the best deals in town and include an appetizer, chowder or soup, your entrée, and a dessert for one super-low price.

 

McMenamins Old St. Francis School

If you’re feeling nostalgic for elementary school, journey back in time with dinner and a bathroom break at McMenamins Old St. Francis School.

Located in Downtown Bend, this former 1930s Catholic schoolhouse underwent a transformation in 2004, morphing into a hotel complete with classrooms-turned-lodging rooms, multiple pubs, a brewery, movie theater, event space, and an amazing saltwater soaking pool.

Kickin’ it old skool in the restroom at McMenamins.

It’s a great place to explore, taking in artwork and memorabilia that pays homage to the history of the school. You’ll find that in the restrooms as well, where vintage sinks, urinals, and décor take you right back to your grade school days.

Enjoy the soaking pool when you’re at McMenamins (but save the peeing for the restroom).

Staying at McMenamins is a fabulous idea, but if you’re not doing that, at least make time to grab a beer at one of the pubs (O’Kanes is my personal fave) and plan a soak in the pool. No visit to McMenamins is complete without an order of their Cajun tots, so make sure to add those to your pub order, along with a pint of Ruby.

 

10 Barrel’s Eastside Pub

Bend visitors who stick to the city’s popular Westside might never realize there’s a burgeoning dining scene on the quieter east end of the city.

Case in point, 10 Barrel Brewing’s Eastside Pub, which opened at the start of summer 2017. The space boasts plentiful outdoor seating, fire pits, an impressive tap list, incredible food, and a super-cool rustic/industrial vibe.

Rustic-looking wood and a sleek sink are part of the appeal at 10 Barrel Eastside.

That vibe extends to the bathrooms, with sleek-looking stone sinks and stalls constructed from what looks like repurposed barn wood. Note: Don’t rub against the stalls, as they’re a bit splintery. But if you’re in the habit of rubbing body parts on bathroom walls, you have bigger issues than I can address in this blog post.

10 Barrel’s selection of pizzas changes regularly to take advantage of what’s seasonal. My current fave (and likely to disappear soon as we shift into fall) is the Summer Pie, featuring an avocado cream base, roasted poblano, zucchini, squash, smoked corn, and cherry tomato. I add pancetta to appease my carnivorous instincts.

Quench your thirst between trips to the potty.

My stepdaughter is obsessed with the Jaca, which has garlic cream sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, pulled pork, sausage, pineapple, and jalapenos. You’ll also find an awesome array of salads, wraps, and appetizers among the pub fare. Whatever you order, make sure to pair it with something from their beer menu, or treat yourself to the ten-sample taster tray.

 

Bonus round: Newport Avenue Market

Okay, technically this isn’t a restaurant. But it may as well be, considering Newport Avenue Market offers a staggering array of foodie-friendly culinary treats, ranging from freshly-made sushi and deli items, to artisan cheeses, locally-raised meats, produce, and gourmet goodies.

The restroom at Newport Avenue Market feels like rays of sunshine while you attend to business.

In other words, this is where you want to go for picnic supplies or to stock the kitchen in your Bend vacation rental.

Grocery store bathrooms are often a little odd, requiring a trek through stockrooms or employee breakrooms to reach a space that always feels a bit like you’re not supposed to be there. While the journey to reach the Newport Market restroom is no different, the space itself is a delightfully-surprising oasis of happy.

The space features brightly-colored tile work, flowers on the counter, and walls lined with photos of employees’ pets. Spend a few moments getting your zen on in the bathroom (or whatever else you do in there). Then wash your hands, grab a shopping cart, and stock up on French bread, gourmet cheese, artisan meats, a few grapes or pears, and a killer bottle of wine. Voila! Instant picnic, and you’re already in your happy space to enjoy it.

 

5 reasons autumn is awesome in Bend, Oregon

September 28th, 2017

Everyone has a time of year they love more than any other in Bend, and for me, that time is now.

Nights have turned chilly and trees have gone from ablaze in the literal sense (@#$% forest fires) to ablaze in autumnal hues of red, orange, and yellow leaves. Crowds have thinned out, but the weather is still warm enough that I can enjoy an afternoon of SUPing on my favorite lake and have the whole place to myself.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year in Bend!

Sound awesome? It is! Here are five things that make fall a stupendous time of year to be in Bend, Oregon.

 

The best of both weather worlds

Last weekend, Mt. Bachelor became the first ski area in North America to offer skiing and snowboarding in advance of the 2017-18 winter season when they created a free walk-up terrain park and offered “snow-seeing” chairlift rides.

Autumn in Bend still offers plenty of warm days for all your favorite forms of play.

Today, it’s 80-degrees in Bend and I’m plotting ways to escape work early for some standup paddleboarding on the Deschutes.

Fall is the time of year in Bend when you’ll see the greatest swoops in weather condition, and for those who crave variety, it’s a wonderful thing to behold.

 

Farewell to the crowds

As someone who works in tourism promotion, I’m the last person to whine about summertime crowds in Bend. Nevertheless, I’ll admit I experience Bend differently when things quiet down in autumn and I have the luxury of solitude in so many of my favorite spots.

Hiking trails get quieter. Wait times are shorter at my favorite restaurants. When I get distracted gawking at autumn leaves while strolling the streets of downtown Bend, I’m a lot less likely to run my clumsy face into someone doing the same thing.

This time of year, it’s possible to have the whole lake to yourself.

If you come to Bend for tranquility and quiet, fall is a great time to find it.

 

Save a bundle during shoulder season

Not everyone outside the tourism biz knows the term“shoulder season,” but those who do know it’s the best time of year to score great deals on lodging and activities.

In Bend, our shoulder season happens from late-fall to early-winter and then again in early spring (by contrast, peak times are summer break, winter break, and spring break).

In other words, October is pretty much the perfect time to plan a Bend vacation. Crowds are smaller, prices are lower, and the weather is still pretty mild.

For the inside scoop on shoulder season deals, check out our Deals and Discounts page.

 

Oh, the events!

Some of my very favorite events take place in Bend this time of year. Though we’ve already had Oktoberfest, the Bend Fall Festival is coming up October 6-8 with three days of live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. There’s also a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and the ever-popular Pumpkin Carving Contest.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

October also ushers in Tenth Month, which is a month-long celebration of brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes events like the BendFilm FestivalBend Venture ConferenceBend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.

And can I just add an extra shout-out here for the BendFilm Festival? It’s seriously one of my favorite events in Bend for the entire year, which is high praise coming from someone who generally doesn’t love movies at all (hashtag booksnob). The films are amazing, the parties are excellent, and it’s a terrific opportunity to rub shoulders with actors, directors, filmmakers, and other assorted creatives. There’s a vibe in Bend during BendFilm Festival that’s unlike anything you’ll experience other times of year, and I can’t wait for the event to kick off October 12-15.

 

The tastiest time of year

A lot of great Bend restaurants have found a niche serving up seasonal, locally grown produce, and there’s something about fall’s bounty that seems to bring out the best stuff.

 

Few things are tastier than fall food in Bend.

Chow is currently cranking out magical meals featuring locally-sourced sweet pickled corn, organic kale, and housemade raw beet noodles. If that sounds too veggie-centric for you, you’ll be happy to know they’ve also been crafting fabulous dishes with so-fresh-it’s-still-mooing Cascade Angus natural beef.

Other great restaurants specializing in seasonal local produce include Ariana900 Wall and Jackson’s Corner.

If you’d prefer to handle food prep on your own, don’t forget the Bend Farmers Market is still going through October 11. Now’s a great time to stock up on fresh produce and flowers, not to mention enjoying live music and a great chance to stroll at the edge of Mirror Pond while the weather’s still warm.

And don’t get me started on all the amazing seasonal beers you’ll find along the Bend Ale Trail right now. Creamy stouts, hoppy IPAs, and a plethora of barrel-aged brews, seasonal sours, and the occasional pumpkin beer. Cheers to fall in Bend!

10 things you may be thinking as snow arrives at Mt. Bachelor

September 21st, 2017

Snow fans who keep watch over the Mt. Bachelor webcams rejoiced this week as snow began falling for the first time this season.

For those feeling less thrilled about the return of the white stuff, don’t worry—the current weather forecast shows a string of days in the 70s and 80s next week, so you still have time to fit in a few more days of hiking, biking, paddling, and picnicking outdoors.

Mt. Bachelor posted this image to their Facebook page on Wednesday as snow began to pile up at the resort.

But for those who get giddy at the thought of a winter vacation, here are 10 things that might be going through your head right now.

#1: “I wonder if I should make reservations…”

Yep, you should. Popular winter travel dates can fill up crazystupidfast, so if you want first dibs on the best Bend hotels and vacation rentals, book now.

#2: “I love good food. I wonder who makes the best burgers/wings/sushi/vegan food in Bend?”

You’re in luck! We recently rounded up nearly seven years’ worth of our “best of” drinking and dining posts, and you’ll find them all right here.

Scenes from one of our more popular culinary blog posts featuring Bend’s best bacon.

#3: “How much duct tape is too much on my ski jacket?”

If you have to ask, it’s time for a new one. Lucky for you, lots of Bend retailers are having killer sales right now, so hop out there and do some Bend shopping to restock all your winter gear.

#4: “Where is that @#$% ice scraper?”

I’m right there with ya in needing to dig through my car to ensure I have what I need for winter driving. Now’s a great time to stock up on antifreeze, locate your tire chains, and maybe sign up for a class to help prepare you for driving in icy conditions.

#5: “Do dogs wear shoes?”

Hey, it’s a legit question, especially when it comes to protecting Rover’s paws from the cold. Bend-based Ruffwear makes a wide variety of boots created just for dogs. You’ll find those, along with other awesome options at locally-owned Bend Pet Express. They carry one of my favorite products, Musher’s Secret, which is a dense, barrier wax that forms a breathable bond with your dog’s paws. Bend Pet Express also sells Ultra Paws Durable Dog boots, which are a little less expensive than the Ruffwear ones and meant more for the everyday walker.

Now’s a great time to score killer pre-season deals on passes at Mt. Bachelor.

#6: “I wonder if Mt. Bachelor has any pre-season deals on passes?”

They sure do! Check out their website for all the latest and greatest sales, but now is definitely the time to buy if you want to save some cash and plan ahead for what’s shaping up to be a killer season for snow sports.

#7: “Crap. Have I missed my last opportunity to try standup paddleboarding or go for that hike?

Don’t worry! Like I mentioned earlier, we’ll have several days next week warming into the low 80s, so you’ll be able to squeeze in a few more days of sunny fun. But beyond that, here’s the cool thing about Bend—while Mt. Bachelor sees an average snowfall of 462 inches, the city of Bend averages less than 24. That means that even in the dead of winter, it’s totally possible to ski powder all morning, then drive 20 minutes down the hill to spend your afternoon golfing, hiking on dry trails, or mountain biking 277 miles of sweeping singletrack.

One of the stunning snowflake images captured by Lookie Loo Portraits.

#8: “Do snowflakes really look like those things I used to cut out of paper in third grade?”

Kinda. We can all thank Lookie Loo Portraits of Bend, Oregon for snagging some of our absolute favorite snowflake close-ups last season, and you can see from the pics that they’re pretty unique. And to address the other thing you’re wondering about whether it’s true no two snowflakes are alike, that’s also true. While it isn’t possible to compare every snowflake that’s ever fallen, the fact that each flake is made up of 10 quintillion water molecules growing at different rates and in different patterns in different temperatures means it’s highly unlikely that any two are identical. There’s your deep thought for the day.

#9: “All right, so I’m seriously considering a Bend winter vacation this year. I wonder what else there is to do there?”

Oh, man. What can’t you do in Bend? The area offers everything from arts and culture to the legendary Bend Ale Trail. You can try a cave adventure with Wanderlust Tours, or try the tallest commercial bungee jump in North America. The possibilities are endless, so start browsing at www.visitbend.com to see what piques your interest. You can also check our Event Calendar to see what’s happening around town on the dates you’d like to visit.

Get ready for a crazy-fun winter in Bend!

#10: “I’d sure like to help Tawna out by shoveling her driveway this winter.”

Why thank you! That’s so very kind. Shall I post a signup sheet on this blog, or would you like to just drop by with your shovel after our first big storm of the season? Let me know and I’ll have the cocoa ready for you.

5 creative cocktails you’ve gotta try in Bend

September 14th, 2017

Anyone who’s spent time on the Bend Ale Trail knows Bend has a reputation as a beer town.

But if you’ve tackled Drinkable Diversions or done the Local Pour with Wanderlust Tours, you also know the city’s cocktail culture gives sudsy brew a run for its money.

Creative cocktails are popping up everywhere in Bend, not just in distillery tasting rooms like Oregon Spirit Distillers’ Barrel Thief Lounge and Bend Distillery’s new Crater Lake Spirits Downtown Tasting Room (though those are both excellent spots to get your drink on). You’ll find them in unique places like Worthy Brewing, which not only boasts awesome beer, but the mix master who won the 2017 Bartender’s Brawl.

The Smoked Manhattan at Bos Taurus.

So where else can you find super-creative and inspired cocktails in Bend? Here are five of the most unique offerings you’ll find around town!

 

The Smoked Bos Manhattan at Bos Taurus

A relative newcomer to Bend’s drinking and dining scene, Bos Taurus is a boutique downtown steakhouse that boasts a custom cast-iron slab designed for the perfect sear on all their meats.

But it’s the Smoked Bos Manhattan that sets them apart on the cocktail side of the equation.

The drink features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke.

In a nutshell, it looks freakin’ cool.

Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. Cheers!

 

The Duck Fat Sazarac at Drake

Yes, you read that right. A Sazerac made with duck fat. Well, there’s more to it than that.

The delicious Duck Fat Sazerac at Drake.

Order this unique concoction at Drake and you’ll be treated to a mind-blowing cocktail made from a blend of duck fat-infused rye bourbon, absinthe, sugar, and bitters with a twist.

To answer the question, yes, you really can taste a difference between this and a standard Sazarac. The duck fat adds a unique richness of flavor and an oh-so-subtle texture that had me grabbing it back from my husband several times and saying, “let me try that again.” He declared it one of the most unique cocktails he’s ever had.

For those who want a backup drink that’s unique but not as bold, try the Drakeside made with Earl Grey-infused gin, mint, and lime. Be sure to order some nibbles here, too, since the culinary offerings are out-of-this world. Their shrimp and grits are my favorite, or try the tasty salt-roasted marrow bones with carrot jam, salsa verde, and toast if you’re on a roll with sampling something new.

 

 

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2

If Bo Taurus hits it out of the park with a drink that features smoke, Level 2 nails it with one that’s actually on fire.

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop at Level 2, along with the runner up Bubblegum Lemon Drop.

The Flaming Strawberry Lemon Drop features 11 vodka, strawberry puree, fresh lemon juice, triple sec, limoncello, and a flaming float of 151 rum. It’s sort of like a normal strawberry lemon drop, but with flames. Did I mention fire?

(Here’s where a cooler blogger would insert a gif of Beavis and Butthead saying, “fire’s cool.” You’ll have to imagine it, okay?)

Going back to the drinks, I’ll confess that my original plan was to spotlight the Bubblegum Lemon Drop at Level 2, since they make their own house-infused bubblegum vodka (Double Bubble gum, in case you’re wondering) with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and a sugared rim. It’s definitely unique, and tastes just like a mouthful of Bazooka Bubble Gum. A little sweet for my taste, but worth a try if that’s your jam.

Order the Ahi Tuna Poke (served with sticky rice, sesame soy vinaigrette, wasabi cream, macadamia nuts, fresh pineapple, and crispy wontons) to give you something to nibble.

 

The Red Mosquito at Rockin’ Dave’s Backstage Lounge

The unique cocktails at Rockin’ Daves Backstage Lounge take on a more subtle quality with unique twists on classic cocktails and housemade infusions.

The Red Mosquito and the Yellow Ledbetter at Rockin’ Dave’s.

The Red Mosquito is a play off a traditional Old Fashioned, but it’s made with Dave’s house-infused hot cherry bourbon in place of regular bourbon, then mixed with sugar, bitters, orange, and a cocktail cherry.

Another great option is the Yellow Ledbetter, made with their own house-infused spicy cucumber gin mixed with dry vermouth and an orange twist.

Bonus points here for the intimate location outside the hustle and bustle of Downtown or the Old Mill, plus their happy hour and nightly specials kick some serious butt. Order the deviled egg trio or a half-pound of their bacon wings with Jamaican habanero sauce to make your tummy happy.

 

Uh . . . pretty much anything at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin

I know this is kind of cheating, but there’s virtually nothing you could order off the menu at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin without your taste buds perking up and saying, “oh my—what was that?”

The Shiso Thirsty at Dogwood Cocktail Cabin.

For the first year this funky, urban cocktail lounge was open, I made it my mission to sample everything on their uber-creative cocktail menu. I soon learned this was impossible without (a) destroying my liver, and (b) having to start all over again because they’re always adding new and unique drinks.

But a few of my faves include:

The Beetnik: Beet-infused vodka with ginger and lemon served up. This one’s for you, fans of earthy-tasting infusions.

Mr. Pink: Pink peppercorn-infused vodka (yes, you really, really do taste those peppercorns and they’re fabulous!) with peach, peach bitters, and cava, served on the rocks.

Shiso Thirsty: Sake, pickled soybeans, and shiso leaf (it’s a little like mint, but more grassy and herbal. A unique flavor for sure!)

The Herban cowboy: Black pepper-infused bourbon, Fernet Branca, pomegranate, molasses, black licorice, and orange peel. If that’s not a flavor explosion, I don’t know what is.

They’ve got a pretty rockin’ happy hour from 5-7 daily with drinks and snacks at 25% off, so order a round of their crispy Brussels sprouts and a plate of surf-n-turf tacos and plan on sampling a couple cocktails.

Pro tip: Go with friends and make everyone order something different so you can all try sips of several different cocktails.

 

 

What’s on tap for fall 2017 in Bend, Oregon? (Plus win an Oktoberfest prize pack!)

September 7th, 2017

Did anyone else do a teeny, tiny, eensy, weensy dance of joy when the kids went back to school?

The Weiner Dog Races are a highlight of Bend Oktoberfest.

For me, the joy is less about ushering youngsters out of the house and more about ushering in my very favorite season in Bend.

Here are five autumn happenings worth getting giddy about as fall arrives in Bend (plus your chance to win a cool prize package for one of them!)

Bend Oktoberfest September 15-16

Ever wondered why most Oktoberfest celebrations happen in September? There’s a reason! The first Oktoberfest happened in Germany in 1810 to commemorate the Bavarian crown prince’s wedding in mid-October. When they decided to make it an annual affair, they bumped it earlier to take advantage of nicer weather in September.

That makes sense for Bend, too. Our city’s annual Oktoberfest in downtown Bend is a two-day celebration from September 15-16. It features games, food, beer, cider, live music, and kids’ entertainment like bouncy houses and face painting.

Probably the most popular event is the annual Weiner Dog Races, which will have you in stitches as you watch each gaggle of short-legged, tongue-flopping canines scurry to the finish line. Get there early if you want a good spot for viewing.

Who wants to win an Oktoberfest prize pack?

My favorite aspect of Bend’s Oktoberfest is something termed “absurd games of skill.” There are prizes for yodeling, tricycle races, a costume contest, and bendhamerschlagen (a race to hammer a nail into a custom table). They’re all hilarious, and you can scope out the schedule right here.

GIVEAWAY!!! Want to win an Oktoberfest Family Prize Pack that includes two beer steins and tokens for free beer, plus a kiddie schwag set that includes vouchers for two free Kids Zone bracelets, two wooden Oktoberfest toys, and two chicken headbands? Comment on this post with your favorite thing about fall in Bend. We’ll choose a winner on Tuesday, September 12.

 

Bend Fall Festival October 6-8

Get in on pumpkin decorating at the Bend Fall Festival.

Whether you require an extra dose of fall festivity, or you can’t make it to Oktoberfest, the annual First Interstate Bank Bend Fall Festival is a three-day affair that kicks off on Friday, October 6.

It’s similar to Oktoberfest with live music, abundant food, and plenty of things to do for kids. But this festival also features a Harvest Market, a Fine Artist Promenade, and the ever-popular pumpkin carving contest.

New this year is the Fall into Fashion area, which will highlight a carefully-selected group of creators, retailers, and reps for both clothing and accessories.

Check out the full schedule of events here.

 

Bend Farmers Market through October 11

There’s something a bit magical about the Bend Farmers Market this time of year.

Every Wednesday from May through mid-October, local vendors gather in Bend’s Mirror Pond Plaza above Drake Park to sell local veggies, fruits, jams, flowers, meats, soaps, baked goods, and so much more. There’s live music and much merriment, but the months of September and October have something a little different.

Late-season produce like melons and corn are in abundance this time of year at the Bend Farmers Market.

Maybe it’s the brightness of turning leaves and pumpkins propped up on hay bales. Maybe it’s the joy of bundling up in colorful scarves and new boots. Maybe it’s the knowledge that we only have a few weeks left to snag farm fresh goodies in this quaint, friendly market.

But it’s probably all of those things combined that make a September stroll through the Bend Farmers Market the perfect way to usher in the fall season.

 

More outdoor music

Full disclosure: Yes, there have been several outdoor concerts cancelled in the last week because of poor air quality resulting from forest fires raging across the Pacific Northwest. Sisters Folk Festival was called off for the first time in its 22 year history, and Tumalo Creek Kayak & Canoe had to reschedule its August 30 Pickin’ and Paddlin’ event to September 27.

The Athletic Club of Bend has three awesome shows remaining in the concert season.
Photo by Gary Calicott

That sucks.

But we have every reason to believe things will clear up and remaining outdoor events will go off without a hitch.

As of right now, Michael Franti is still scheduled to play the Les Schwab Amphitheater on Friday, September 8. Tickets are still available, and it should be an awesome evening of music with blissfully warm temps. They’re also hosting Modest Mouse on September 21, which should be another fabulous show.

The Athletic Club of Bend also has three shows coming up in their Clear Summer Nights concert series, with John Butler trio playing September 10, Phillip Phillips September 19, and the Shins playing September 26. Tickets are still available for all three shows.

 

Check out Tenth Month in October

For years, October has been a month jam-packed with independently organized events exploring art, culture, film, tech, and business. Last year, those events banded together to create a month-long celebration known as Tenth Month.

BendFilm is a great excuse to visit Bend in October.

The entire month of October is dedicated to brave ideas and innovation in art, film, marketing, technology, and design. It includes some of my very favorite events like the BendFilm FestivalBend Venture ConferenceBend Design Conference, and Swivel, which makes the whole month of October a pretty inspiring time to be in Central Oregon.

If you want to crank the dial on your own creativity, it’s a great month to plan a Bend vacation.

Get a Bend campfire experience (without the campfire!)

August 31st, 2017

Late-summer in Bend means forest fire season, which puts a temporary freeze on your plans for cuddling by the campfire and roasting hot dogs over an open flame. Right now, all campfires (including charcoal and pellet fires) are prohibited on public and private lands across our bone-dry high desert landscape.

The Smoked Manhattan at Bos Taurus will give you that campfire feeling in liquid form.

So what’s a campfire lover to do when visiting Bend in late-August and early-September? Here are five ways to get your fix.

Sample some smoky sips

If you can’t enjoy the warmth and aesthetic appeal of a campfire, you can at least enjoy the essence in liquid form.

A relative newcomer to Bend’s culinary scene, Bos Taurus boasts a cocktail guaranteed to give you those feel-good campfire vibes. The Smoked Bos Manhattan features Bulleit Bourbon, sweet vermouth, and bitters, along with a healthy helping of cherry wood smoke served up in a cool-looking cork vessel that holds in all that beautiful smoke. Pop out the cork and splash it into a tumbler garnished with lemon peel and a big ice cube. It’s the next best thing to cuddling beside an open flame under the stars.

If you’re more of a do-it-yourselfer, pick up a bottle of Smoke Tea Liqueur from Thomas & Sons Distillery (an offshoot of Townshend’s Tea). Described as “a campfire in a bottle,” it gets its flavor from pine-smoked Lapsang Souchong black tea (which is blended with vanilla bean, South African rooibos, and Pacific Northwest blackberry honey). You’ll find a number of cocktail recipes on their website, though I’m partial to sipping it neat as an after-dinner liqueur. You’ll find it in most Bend liquor stores, or at the Townshend’s Tea location in downtown Bend.

If you really want to get serious, Ginger’s Kitchenware in the Old Mill District carries the Fortessa Cocktail Smoking box—a small appliance designed to infuse cocktails and food with a savory, smoky flavor. Cheers!

 

Spice it up

Craving the flavor of campfire-cooked cuisine, minus the campfire?

Make your own smoky barbecue sauce with spice blends from Savory Spice.

Savory Spice sells multiple smoked spices that are great for giving everything from Bloody Marys to grilled chicken and burgers a great smoky taste.

Here’s a recipe for a Black Bloody Mary using their Cook County Charcoal seasoning, or try making their Red Rocks Hickory Smoke & Beer BBQ Sauce using their Red Rock Hickory Smoke seasoning.

 

 

 

It’s a gas

One of the gas-powered fire features in the Old Mill District, this one at Pastini Pastaria.

Pubs along the Bend Ale Trail are famous for their cozy fire pits, but those open fire bans apply to them, too. A few—like Riverbend Brewing, with its cool, contemporary-looking fire feature—have gas-powered flames that aren’t subject to the ban. Step out onto their patio in the evening hours and enjoy a pint of their Oregonized Love IPA.

Several Bend eateries and shopping areas also boast gas and propane-powered fire pits. In the Old Mill District, you’ll find a massive gas-powered fire pit outside Greg’s Grill, three smaller pits beside Anthony’s, another small pit beside the Naked Winery tasting room, and several vertical fire structures at Pastini Pastaria. While current smoke levels from area wildfires make outdoor dining inadvisable right this moment, expect that to change as soon as blazes are under control and our air quality returns to normal.

 

Have your s’mores and eat ‘em, too

One of the best things about camping is the magical combination of toasty marshmallows sandwiched between crisp graham crackers and oh-so-perfectly melted chocolate.

The mouthwatering, gourmet s’mores at Brasada Ranch are like nothing you’ve experienced while camping.

If you can’t shake your s’mores craving, drive to Brasada Ranch where you can cap off your meal at Range or Ranch House with gourmet s’mores delivered right to your table.

These are no ordinary s’mores, mind you. They feature locally-made chocolate from Goody’s Chocolates and marshmallows made fresh daily by Brasada Ranch’s award-winning chef. He also makes the graham crackers from scratch with hints of ginger, cinnamon, and honey.

 

Want to smell like campfire?

Blogger Tawna plays it safe by wearing a mask to walk Bindi during one of Bend’s smokiest days.

Wind conditions and the tireless toil of firefighters across our region means smoke conditions in Bend are changing constantly. That said, it’s been a hazy couple of weeks in Central Oregon, and doctors have advised folks to be watchful of air quality (especially if you have asthma, emphysema, or other similar health conditions).

Keep an eye on the Department of Environmental Quality website to assess whether current conditions make it wise for you venture into Bend’s outdoors on any given day.

If you decide to head out, there’s a good chance a fifteen minute walk around the block will leave your clothes and hair smelling delightfully like a campfire. It’s almost like camping, right?

But if that’s not your jam, check out this blog post featuring 13 fabulous indoorsy activities to enjoy in Bend until our air is fresh and clean once more.

 

 

 

13 spots for indoorsy fun in Bend, Oregon

August 24th, 2017

Forest fire season is upon us, and with several large blazes raging around Oregon, Bend has seen a bit of smoke this week. A short walk with the dog last night left us both smelling like we’d spent the evening by a bonfire, and folks with respiratory problems have been advised to stay indoors.

Challenge accepted!

While it’s rare for Bend fans to give up even a moment of outdoor play in our glorious high desert paradise, there’s plenty of indoorsy fun to be found when smoke or rain drive us inside.  Here are 13 of my favorite forms of indoor fun in Bend.

This Golden Eagle is one of countless birds of prey you’ll get to meet at the High Desert Museum.

 

The High Desert Museum

One of Central Oregon’s top attractions since 1982, the High Desert Museum is a wonderland of wildlife, natural history, and art. It sits on 135 acres and boasts 100,000 square feet of exhibit space where you can get a close-up view of native wildlife including river otters, bobcat, porcupines, and badgers. Their raptor programs are a must-see, with owls, falcons, and hawks swooping overhead.

Stick to the indoor exhibits if the weather is frightful, or head outside to visit an authentic homestead and sawmill from 1904. You’ll also find a variety of educational, hands-on exhibits that will thrill visitors of all ages and bring history and science to life.

 

Mountain Air Trampoline Park

In less than a year of operation, Mountain Air Trampoline Park has become my 11-year-old’s favorite spot for birthday parties or weekend outings. The main court has 26 trampolines and is surrounded on two sides by angled trampoline walls. There’s also a super-long jumping and tumbling runway.

Mountain Air even offers basketball and dodgeball, along with a giant airbag that’s crazy fun to leap onto from above.

The giant airbag at Mountain Air Trampoline Park is one of countless features that make this place fun for all ages.

Parents with toddlers they’d prefer not to see squished by older kids will be happy to know there’s a special zone for kids 46-inches and shorter.

Note to busty moms: Double up on the sports bras for this one. You’ll thank me later.

 

The Roundabout Art Route

One of the most unique art exhibits anywhere, the Roundabout Art Route is a collection of nearly two dozen pieces of public art on display throughout the city in the most unlikely places – at the center of Bend’s traffic circles. The circles, also filled with plants, flowers and trees, are designed to keep traffic flowing around the city.

Pick up a brochure at the Bend Visitor Center so you can map your route between sculptures. At the end, answer some simple trivia questions and return it to the Visitor Center to claim a cool edible prize.

 

Sun Mountain Fun Center

There’s plenty of indoor fun to be found at Sun Mountain Fun Center, especially if you have kids in tow. Bumper cars, bowling, and a staggering array of video games dispensing tickets you can cash in for prizes.

Enjoy games galore at Sun Mountain Fun Center.

The pizza here is surprisingly awesome, with a great local beer selection to boot. If you get a break in the rainstorm or smoke haze, head outdoors to do a little Go Kart racing, mini golf, or a stint in the batting cage.

 

Deschutes Historical Museum

History buffs will adore this well-run museum located in the historic Reid School (Bend’s first modern school opened in 1914). The Deschutes Historical Museum has been operating in Bend since 1980, and features a unique variety of exhibits ranging from local history to an expansive temporary exhibit titled, “Winter Comes: Oregon’s Nordic Ski History.”

Part of the Nordic ski exhibit at the Deschutes Historical Museum.

They’re also the host site for one of my favorite Bend beer events coming up Labor Day Weekend, The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew and Whiskey Festival Sept. 1-2. #JustSayin

 

Spa day

When you vacation in Bend, there’s the tendency to run yourself ragged trying to cram in all the hiking, biking, paddling, and playing in the outdoor playground of the West.

Mmmm….massage.

Whether it’s rain, smoke, or just a need for relaxation that drive the urge for a spa day, you’ll find tons of great Bend day spas where you can pamper yourself. Opt for a mani/pedi, or get a massage to soothe well-worked muscles. Score a facial to counter the effects of our dry high desert climate, or book a special service like a mud wrap.

Aaaah….now that’s a vacation.

 

Wren and Wild Aerial Yoga

Want a super-unique indoorsy experience to add to your Bend vacation? Wren and Wild is Bend’s first aerial yoga studio. In case you’re not familiar with it, aerial yoga is a strengthening practice using sturdy silks suspended from the ceiling.

Enjoy some aerial yoga at Wren and Wild.

They offer private classes, group workshops, and even special sessions like mother/daughter aerial yoga. Check out their rates and schedule here.

 

Plan an escape

Both Bend Escape Room and Red Button Escapes offer a fun, immersive, interactive game experience that’s challenging for the whole family. In a nutshell, your group is locked in a room and given the clues to escape. It makes a fun team building or family activity for 2-6 people.

 

Have an Airsoft battle

For those who’ve never heard of it, Airsoft is the generic name for air-powered toy guns that shoot small, plastic BBs. Peak Airsoft has an indoor arena where you can enjoy a safe, fun, fast-paced, adrenaline-filled action experience.

Playing at Peak Airsoft’s indoor arena revolves around loosely-guided, objective-based game modes requiring teamwork and strategy to complete the tasks assigned to each team.  All equipment is provided, including electric M4-style rifles and full face protection

When skies are hazy, the historic Tower Theatre makes a great indoorsy escape.

Guests can drop in for open play sessions or book a private party.  For info and pricing, go here.

 

The Tower Theatre

Craving a bit of culture during your Bend visit? Check the schedule at Bend’s historic Tower Theatre and snap up some seats at an upcoming event. This renovated art-deco theater offers musical performances, films, plays, and more, so check their schedule to see what’s happening during your Bend stay.

 

Vector Volcano

Children of the ‘80s and ‘90s will fall in love with this quirky Downtown arcade packed with vintage video games, but so will kids of all ages and generations. Vector Volcano is family-friendly, but they also serve local craft beer. Admission gets you unlimited game play for the time period you pick, with no quarters or tokens required.

 

Bowling

Bowling is the ultimate family activity for all ages, and Bend is lucky enough to have two great spots for it. Check out Lava Lanes or Sun Mountain Fun Center for a fun-filled afternoon or evening of rolling strikes (or gutter balls—no judgement here).

Cosa Cura in downtown Bend is a fabulous spot to shop for locally-made clothing, jewelry, and more.

 

Shop ‘til you drop

Not-so-hot weather conditions give you the perfect excuse to splurge on a little souvenir shopping in Bend. Whether you’re looking for art, clothing, outdoor gear, or edible gifts to take home for friends, you’ll find it all in Bend.

Scope out the eclectic array of unique shops in downtown Bend, the Old Mill District, and Northwest Crossing, or head for to national chains found at the Bend Factory Stores or the Cascade Village Shopping Center, you’ll find plenty of spots to give your credit card a workout in Bend.

 

12 dos and don’ts as we approach Eclipse 2017 in Bend

August 17th, 2017

It’s been three months since I wrote about Eclipse 2017, and now we’re mere days from the big event on August 21, 2017.

Some folks are giddy as chipmunks in a tub of popcorn. Others are freaking out about clogged roadways, water shortages, and the question of where we’re going to put the one million people expected to arrive in Oregon over the next few days.

The path of totality for the 2017 solar eclipse in Oregon.
Graphic courtesy of Xavier Jubier/Eclipse2017.org

About a quarter of those visitors will head for Central Oregon, so here’s what you should know about Bend travel as we approach the big day.

DO remember that patience is key. We’ll have lots of bodies in town, and everyone’s excited about this super-unique cosmic phenomenon. Treat your fellow travelers with kindness and courtesy, and they’ll do the same for you.

DON’T panic. Yes, some grocery store shelves are a bit bare, and traffic is going to be wonky for a few days. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s is a small price to pay for enjoying a full solar eclipse in one of the most scenic spots on earth.

DO get your hands on a good pair of eclipse glasses. There have been reports of fake ones showing up on Amazon, so if that’s where you got yours, double-check the source. If you’re in doubt, stop by the Bend Visitor Center to grab a pair.

DON’T wear eclipse glasses while driving. Uh, this should go without saying, since you can’t see a darn thing when you’re wearing them.

DO plan ahead. While the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) will have incident response teams staged along roadways to keep cars moving and help those in distress, the high volume of vehicles means any trip—no matter which day you’re traveling or where you’re headed—will take longer than normal. Keep plenty of food, water, and medications in your car, and have a plan for tending to your (ahem) bathroom needs. Note: Your plan should not include peeing out the car window.

Be cautious if you’re planning to camp during Eclipse 2017. Stock up on supplies and remember that campfires are currently prohibited throughout Central Oregon.

DON’T make the trip to Central Oregon if you haven’t reserved lodging in advance. Campsites, hotel rooms, vacation rentals, and yurts have been booked for years, so your odds of finding last-minute eclipse accommodations are about the same as my odds of turning into a rainbow trout and spawning in the Deschutes.

DO be cautious if you’re camping in Central Oregon’s great outdoors. There’s currently a campfire ban covering all public and private lands across Central Oregon, and with our region drier than a mouthful of sand, even a tiny spark from your car or cigarette could cause thousands of acres to go up in flames. Be wary of wild animals and conscious of leave-no-trace ethics. Pack your 10 essentials to ensure you stay safe no matter where you wander.

DON’T plan to travel on Monday. If your game plan is to wake up Monday morning and drive to Madras to experience totality at 10 a.m., you need a different game plan. Traffic will be bumper to bumper on two-lane highways, and even if you’re staying in Bend or Sunriver, you’re unlikely to reach your destination before the big event. If a city on the line of totality is your heart’s desire, you’ll need to start your journey sooner.

DO make sure your vehicle is in tip-top shape. Dragging mufflers and catalytic converters have sparked some of Central Oregon’s worst wildfires. It’s also crucial to fuel up whenever you get the chance. Lines at gas stations have been long all week, with some stations running out of fuel (though tanker trucks are still arriving daily to replenish the stock). The demand for fuel will intensive as more people roll into town, so get gas when you can and check your other fluids while you’re at it.

Don’t leave Central Oregon the second the eclipse ends! It’s better to spend a couple days relaxing in our outdoor playground than stuck in your car fighting mobs of traffic.

DON’T stop on the highway or on the shoulder of the road. The eclipse is expected to be Oregon’s biggest traffic event in history, so it’s crucial to keep vehicles moving. The aforementioned ODOT incident response vehicles will be helping with this, offering to push, pull, or drag stranded vehicles off the road. They’ll also have basic first aid supplies in case the need arises. Keep in mind that the highway hits temps of 116-degrees Fahrenheit in the sun, so it’s really not a fun place to hang out anyway.

DO keep an eye on ODOT’s website, which has road cams, eclipse updates, and more. Their Twitter feed will have up-to-the-minute info about traffic incidents and road conditions across the state, as will their trip check hotline at 511. There’s also a statewide, non-emergency hotline that allows you to ask questions about eclipse viewing, safety, traffic, road closures, and more. The number for that is 211, or you can text “eclipse” to 898211. The 211 hotline will operate August 16 through August 23.

DON’T plan to skedaddle out of Central Oregon the instant the eclipse is over. A recent survey of 1,430 travelers journeying to the area for the eclipse found that arrival dates are staggered fairly evenly over the six days leading up to the eclipse, but nearly half of visitors plan to leave Monday. That’s an awful lot of traffic to fight, and there’s really no need—just chill in Bend for a few more days of floating, hiking, biking, and savoring everything the beautiful high desert has to offer!

Cougars and rattlers and bears, oh my! What to know about critters in the high desert.

August 10th, 2017

It probably won’t surprise you to hear Bend’s forests are full of critters.

But some are shocked to learn there are a few critters that could put a crimp in your vacation plans by, say . . . eating you.

Don’t freak. In 43 years as an outdoorsy Oregonian, I’ve never crossed paths with any of them. In fact, sightings of these three creatures are rare, and actual confrontations are rarer still.

Nevertheless, it pays to be cautious. With recent cougar sightings on the upper-traverse of Southfork, a bear sighting on Tumalo Creek, and the constant presence of the Northern Pacific Rattlesnake in the high desert, I’d like to share a few things you should know about each of these oft-misunderstood creatures.

 

What to know about cougars

Before I launch into all the scary-sounding stuff, it’s important to note that according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, there has never been a recorded cougar attack on a human in Oregon history. Not one.

This handsome fellow was photographed by a wildlife cam set up by Deschutes Land Trust. Visit their website for more awesome webcam images, plus great info on Central Oregon’s great outdoors: www.deschuteslandtrust.org

Nevertheless, it’s smart to be educated when you’re venturing into the wilderness.

Cougars are elusive and solitary predators, and it’s estimated there are 6,500-6,800 of them statewide. With the average male staking claim to a territory of up to 100 square miles, they’re obviously cruising around Central Oregon.

While most people never see a cougar, it’s likely one has spotted you if you’re a frequent explorer in Central Oregon’s wilderness. Here’s what to keep in mind when it comes to these big cats:

  • Keep dogs leashed and small children in sight when hiking in cougar country.
  • Avoid jogging or trail riding in low light conditions and in bushy areas where cougars hunt.
  • Watch for cougar signs, including tracks, droppings, scratched trees, and food caches.
  • Never hike alone, and carry a walking stick that can be used as a weapon if needed.
  • Talk, sing, or make some other kind of noise while hiking to reduce your odds of surprising a cougar.
  • If you encounter a cougar, respond by making yourself look as large as possible. Hold your jacket open, wave a stick around, make eye contact, do anything you can to look big and scary and threatening. Whatever you do, don’t bend down and don’t run—it’ll trigger the cougar’s chase instinct.
  • Unlike bears (we’ll get to them in a second) cougars do not “bluff charge.” Playing dead is never recommended if a cougar charges. Fight back, focusing your attack on the cougar’s face and eyes.

 

FALSE ALARM!!!

The legend is true. There’s another kind of cougar in Bend, just like in any town where attractive young men make easy prey for women of a certain age.

Blogger Tawna does her best impression of the other kind of cougar you might spot in wine bars around Bend.

If you’re looking to be caught by one, wine bars are a good bet. Bend has several amazing ones, including Portello WineCafé and Sip Wine Bar. Even if you don’t spot human cougars there, both places make excellent spots to go for a tasty glass of wine and some nibbles. Sip has ladies’ night every Wednesday with $1 off everything from 4- close, while Portello has wine flight weekends every Saturday and Sunday night.

 

What to know about bears

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon is home to about 25,000-30,000 black bears (many of which are not actually black, but cinnamon or brown in color).

This black bear was photographed by a wildlife cam set up by Deschutes Land Trust. Visit their website for more awesome webcam images, plus great info on Central Oregon’s great outdoors: www.deschuteslandtrust.org

Plenty of them make their homes in wilderness areas surrounding Bend, so here’s what you should know if you’re hiking, fishing, or camping in bear country:

  • Keep campsites clean and sleep at least 100 yards from cooking and eating areas.
  • Keep dogs on leashes or in cars.
  • Never, ever pick up a bear cub. If you’re concerned it’s been abandoned, contact the Forest Service or Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, but odds are good the mama is nearby watching. And it goes without saying you should never get between a mama and her cubs.
  • Use flashlights at night and don’t camp or hike alone.
  • Make noise when hiking so you don’t surprise a bear. Some people wear bear bells, while others swear by singing or talking to create noise that alerts bears of a human presence. It wouldn’t hurt to carry bear spray if you’re venturing deep into the wilderness.
  • If you see a bear, pick up small children immediately. Remain calm and take steps to identify yourself as human and not a prey animal. Speak calmly and stand still, but slowly wave your arms.
  • If the bear comes closer or stands on its hind legs, it’s likely curious and not threatening. Keep speaking in low tones and do not scream or make any sudden movements. Never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched screech.
  • If the bear is stationary, move away slowly and sideways. This allows you to keep an eye on the bear and avoid tripping. Do not run, and if the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Always leave the bear an escape route.

 

FALSE ALARM!!!

He may look like a bear, but the massive, shaggy creature found at NW Home Interiors is actually Buddy.

Buddy from NW Home Interiors in Downtown Bend might look like a bear, but he’s more likely to nap on your feet than steal your picnic.

He’s a friendly Burmese Mountain dog who hangs out in the showroom at this fabulous furniture boutique in Downtown Bend.

He supervised my purchase of a massive king bed frame made from repurposed barn wood, so I can assure you his taste is quite exquisite.

 

What to know about rattlesnakes

While rattlesnakes are common in the high desert, there are a few telling statistics when it comes to snakebites. Roughly 90-percent of victims are male, 50-80 percent of bites are to the hand, and at least half the victims were intoxicated at the time of the bite.

In other words, if you’re drunk and handling a snake on purpose, it kinda ups your odds of snakebite.

But if you’re cautious, alert, and not trying to pet one, your odds of an unpleasant encounter with a rattler are actually quite slim. Snakes are more afraid of you than you are of them. Really.

You probably don’t want to meet this rattlesnake in the wild, but you can safely scope out several desert-dwelling snakes at the High Desert Museum (which is who provided us with this fab photo)

A few tips to help you stay safe in areas where rattlesnakes are found:

    • While bears and cougars are most often found in forested areas, rattlesnakes prefer Central Oregon’s more desert-like areas like Smith Rock and the Crooked River Grassland areas. Be especially alert when hiking in these areas, but if you’re hiking above 6,000 feet or meandering around in the city, you can probably chill.
    • Since they’re coldblooded animals, snakes hibernate in winter and come out when the sun shines to absorb heat from rocks and the ground. That means you’re most likely to find them sunbathing in rocky, brushy areas, especially near a water source.
    • Be especially cautious about where you’re putting your hands and feet when scrambling along rock ledges.
    • If you encounter a rattlesnake, move away. It wants to avoid you as much as you want to avoid it. If it starts rattling, it means you’re too close, so back the heck away. The snake’s very last defensive move is to strike, so don’t give it any reason to do that. Snakes aren’t aggressive by nature—they just want to avoid being stepped on.
    • If you hear a rattler but you’re not sure where it is, stay calm and locate the direction of the rattle. Do not panic or you risk being bitten when you freak the bleep out and stumble over it.

This harmless gopher snake was photographed at Pine Nursery in Bend, where he was pretending very hard to be a rattlesnake.

  • Snakebites are rare, but they do happen. What you should NOT do is tie a tourniquet around the affected area, cut the wound, or suck out the venom. There’s also no need to kill the snake. Instead, stay calm and summon medical help. If you’re in a group, send someone else to get a ranger or call 911. Getting to a medical facility quickly is important so a professional can determine how much venom (if any—about 25% of rattlesnake bites are dry) was injected and which type of antivenin is needed.

FALSE ALARM!!!

Often mistaken for rattlesnakes are harmless bull snakes, which are also known as gopher snakes. Compounding the problem, bull snakes like to imitate rattlesnakes by shaking their tails as a defense mechanism.

Your first cue that you might be looking at a bull snake would be the lack of a rattle on its tail. If there’s no rattle, check out the body. Though they have similar patterns, bull snakes are usually cream or pale yellow with black or brown markings, while rattlesnakes are much darker. Also, rattlesnakes have triangular-shaped heads, while the bull snake’s head is usually the same size and shape as its upper body.

This is . . . um, not a snake. But if you see garbage like this lying on the ground, pick it up and take it to the trash so you leave our wilderness areas nicer than you found them.

Other things mistaken for rattlesnakes in Central Oregon include discarded pieces of rope, cables, and bike inner tubes. Instead of running from them, how about doing a kindness to our environment (not to mention your fellow hikers) and picking up any discarded rubbish you might spot on the trails? For more Visit Like a Local tips, go here.

Now get out there and enjoy Bend!


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